First Monsoon Visit of 2011 - 9 July 2011
Trip Start Aug 21, 2011
13Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Matheran Maharashtra India
Off we set, early on Saturday morning in order to beat the traffic. Here is the big Hanuman just off the Shedung exit of the Bombay Pune Expressway.
Verdant monsoon greenery and a pond full of pink lotus at the foothills of Matheran, was a sight for sore eyes.
Driving up the well maintained Neral - Matheran ghat road is always a delight
Quite a few taxis were on their way up. In all our many trips to Matheran, we have never seen that much vehicular traffic, that too on a Saturday
Some horses on their way up
Waterfall by the roadside
It was jam packed with taxis when we reached Dasturi Naka beyond which motor vehicles are not permitted. There was a long queue of cars waiting to enter the parking area. It was really crowded as though everyone in Mumbai and Pune had descended today in Matheran! We left the parking to our driver and walked up to our favourite place in the forest where tourists rarely venture. A light rain began with the cloud moving in. We quickly donned our rain gear.
A tree had fallen across the narrow cliff's edge path. The branches were thin and looked easy enough to move. Far from it! It was impossible to move the tree, no wonder this tree - Memecylon umbellatum - is also known as iron wood. We had no choice but to crawl through a narrow "tunnel" through the fallen tree.
It was reasonably clear when we reached Mt Barry.
The same place a few seconds later, enveloped in clouds!
Torrential rain followed. We ran for shelter under a tree, half drenched already. The rain looked like it would not abate at all. We decided that we would walk down from the other end of the plateau and go back if it had not stopped pouring by that time.
The rain eased a bit by the time we descended to another pathway on the eastern cliff edge.
Visibility was really poor but as we knew this path like the back of our hands, we were quite at home.
Some monkeys peeped at us from the trees above. The fog was so thick, we could barely make them out. It was ghostly but ethereal.
Not surprisingly, the forest floor and wet rocks were carpeted with orchids - Malaxis rheedi
And these beautiful parasites - Christisonia calcarata - root parasites on karvy shrubs, they appear for just about two weeks at this time of the year
Ascending another steep path, we reached the plateau of Governor's Hill or Wireless Mountain as it is better known. Again, the clouds played hide and seek:
The same scene a minute later:
The mist cleared to reveal grassland covered in pretty yellow lilies - Hypoxis aurea
with a solitary white cluster of Single Leaf Habenaria - Habenaria grandifloriformis, a typical Matheran orchid
and a late flowering tree. Usually Memecylon umbellatum is in full bloom in March and early April. It is the most predominant tree of the Matheran plateau.
After walking through the Governor's Hill plateau, we descended through another steep path, again shrouded in mist
Walking back to the grasslands at Mt Barry, we heard a strange sound and discovered a couple of grazing horses. They had come up through a steep path in the forest to eat. One of them had a nasty wound on his back.
Horses in Matheran are a hapless lot. Heavily overburdened, they are made to walk up and down the steep hill several times a day, ferrying goods and people. For some strange reason, female horses i.e. mares, are not permitted in Matheran.
The beautiful grasslands and lateritic plateau of Mt Barry
A large bumble bee about his business in the grass
This tree was full of orchids: small Eria dalzelli and a pretty Habenaria strangely growing in the crook of a branch. Habenarias are usually terrestrial.
Lush moss like a mini lawn on this branch
and strange fruits of Funaria
and pretty pink Begonia crenata
It started pouring torrentially again and we decided it was time to head back home before any serious flooding took place.
Beautiful roadside waterfall on the ghat road going down
Picnickers at another roadside waterfall
Some scenes on the way down
Saw this wild peacock in the foothills. There are not that many here as most have been eaten by the local villagers!
Paddy transplantation in a lush monsoon field
We will surely return to Matheran in a few weeks time.